Sunday, March 6, 2011

There's No Place Like Home: State Qualifiers at the FWB Dirt and Vert

There's a feeling I get pulling into Fort Walton Beach, FL. Surrounded by the all-too-familiar, in a town where if someone doesn't know me, they know my father, sister or husband. My stress melts in the comfort of home.

My dad moved his young family to Fort Walton Beach from Ramstein AFB in Germany in 1972. My mom shopped at the only grocery serving Fort Walton and Destin at the time-- Kelly's IGA. Nearly forty years later, the building remains, but it's now a boring mattress warehouse, next to a What-a-Burger that replaced the Hardee's I knew as a child.

On our way to Bill Madden's Dirt and Vert (his family has been in FWB longer than mine!), I couldn't help but feel twelve years old again. While Destin has morphed into the unfamiliar, Fort Walton remains trapped in a time warp. I waved at the green dinosaur at the Goofy Golf that's been big fun for FWB families for longer than I've been around, and where knocking a ball in the snake's mouth still rewards you with a free game. Across the street is the new location of "Joe and Eddie's". Once located on the "Strip", it was the post-revelry hot spot for a 3-egg recovery omelet. As we turned off 98, Vann and I pointed out our alma mater to the boys as I sang them the FWBHS Viking fight song (daaaaa DAAAAA da dun-dun-dun-dun...) with my hands in the air. Vann and I talked the whole way about who used to live in this house or that, and oh that hasn't changed a bit.

We arrived at the track for a Friday afternoon skills clinic. William spoke very highly of Mr. Lackey, who headed up the clinic, and both of the boys worked hard to get ready for Saturday's race. William had some trouble with the 4th straight rhythms, and took two ugly spills trying to get it right. I always have the "what ifs", especially where William is concerned. I relaxed as I recalled that I went to New Heights Elementary with the local orthopedist, who would be happy to see us.

Following the clinic, my dad took us for dinner at another FWB icon, the Hightide. Down the street from my childhood home on Okaloosa Island, it used to be adjacent to the Seagull (known as the "Dirty Bird" after midnight), where my mom and her friends would dance the night away. Hurricane Opal took the Seagull in 1995, but the Hightide survived. After gorging ourselves on fried grouper and a dozen raw, my dad decided to get some fresh air and take the short walk to his condo, while we headed in for a good nights rest.

Vann, Heather, Stacey, and Vann's best friend Mike- 1989?
Rain loomed on Saturday as we hoped for a break in the unpredictable Emerald Coast weather. Sure enough, the rain stopped just in time for two rounds of practice. The race was able to start promptly at 11, and was run at an efficient pace. It was an awesome day for both our boys. William, a little cautious in his motos after his falls the day before, was able to go all out in the main and take perfects in both classes. Wyatt had his first 7 challenger perfect, making it a triple-perfect day! As an added bonus, my childhood friend Stacey brought her son Brody to watch the races. I was elated to have Stacey by my side yelling for my kids with perfect ex-cheerleader style. Brody and Wyatt get along like peas and carrots, and Brody said after he gets a racing bike he wants Wyatt to "tell him his secrets to win."

We headed back to Tallahassee after Saturday's race, not needing to stay for Sunday.The race was a much needed confidence booster for both of the boys, in preparation for nationals in Peachtree City later this month. As much as I love Fort Walton, I was happy as I woke in my own bed this morning, when the boys jumped in to ask their dad to go get Krispy Kreme. After all, there's no place like home.


  1. Nice. Can smell the gulf air as I remember a simpler time. Go Vikes. Choctaw sucks.

  2. Oh my gosh, this was my favorite of all of your posts. Love the nostalgia. And the new information! Joe and Eddies moved? Vann had a full head of hair?

    I remember going with Mom to the Dirty Bird Lounge. She would make me call her 'Mignon' so that people would think we were sisters. It was so dark in there, that she used to hold the candle up to the face of the men who asked her to dance before making a decision.

  3. Beautifully written!!! It made me think of all the times I had with you guys. We had such fun way back when!

    Wendy, I remember the Dirty Bird Lounge. If my memory serves me correctly, your Mom took us one night to The Sound and then to that wonderful "hotspot"!

    Heather, I am so proud of your boys! If you are ever near me racing, call me I would love to see them at their "finest". Please give them hugs and kissed.

  4. Thanks for the comments! It was fun dredging up the old memories. And David-- come on-- Choctaw's not THAT bad!!

  5. Ahhhh...Hightide, Joe & Eddies, Kelly's IGA, Goofy Golf...LOVE that place and this post!

  6. Hi!
    My name is Jane and I'm with Dwellable (and I can't believe there's such thing as a BMX Mom! I love it!)
    I was looking for blog posts about Okaloosa Island to share on our site and I came across your post...If you're open to it, shoot me an email at jane(at)dwellable(dot)com.
    Hope to hear from you :)